The History of the Mason County Chamber Music Festival

Even though this is the inaugural season of the Mason County Chamber Music Festival (MCCMF), there is a history of events and human interactions that brought the Festival to this moment of fruition. The tangible history of the MCCMF started in 1994 when the Odeon Preservation Association was formed, took out a loan, and bought the Odeon Theater. To help pay back that loan and to raise funds for renovations, the OPA organized countless fundraisers and began presenting occasional live music events. The Studebakers have the honor of being the first band to perform in the historic building. Patrons brought their own folding chairs in those early days.

About 16 years ago Los Angeles studio musician Scott Haupert moved to Mason to start a winery. He had a dream to continue performing by creating a local classical music festival. He shared this idea with friends including Spider Johnson but realized the timing wasn't right. 

In April of 2009, the OPA began presenting a regular Concert Series. The first guest artist was a Flamenco guitarist and for the next six years the performances consisted of a variety of artists. However, there were never any classical ensembles.

In the Fall of 2014, the Artisan Quartet was contacted by their friend Melissa Eddy about an organization in Mason, Texas called the Odeon Preservation Association. She mentioned the OPA's Concert Series, and for the first time, the OPA was interested in presenting a concert of classical music -- possibly a string quartet. It seemed that a great many OPA concert-goers were more than ready for such an event, as AQ was soon to find out. So, after contacting Dennis Evans and working out a date, the AQ was engaged to perform at the Odeon on May 2, 2015. It was also at that time that Dennis told AQ about Scott Haupert and his history with music and the viola. Dennis thought it would increase interest if Scott was invited to perform with the AQ. Scott's history in the music business is rather impressive, and as AQ is always interested in collaboration (and selling tickets), they agreed.

About a year ago, the Artisan Quartet and Scott were preparing for the May performance in Mason. The AQ was very impressed with Scott's musical ability. He fit right in and all five musicians were looking forward to a nice concert experience.

On May 2, 2015, the AQ with guest artist Scott Haupert, played a concert of Mozart and Brahms at the Odeon theater to a sold out house (at least 50 people were turned away). The performance was wildly successful by any account. At the reception, hosted by Sandstone Winery, many audience members approached AQ members with the same reaction - extreme enthusiasm and gratitude for the performance they had just attended. The AQ had arrived in Mason on Saturday to play a nice concert and departed on Sunday thinking something very special had just happened. They decided they had to play for the people of Mason again.

Here the narrative is taken up by Bruce Williams, violist and manager of the Artisan Quartet and Artistic Director of the Mason County Chamber Music Festival.

One week after the Artisan Quartet's hugely successful performance at the Odeon Theater, I traveled to Fayetteville, Texas (population about 250), and for one week I lived and played at the Fayetteville Chamber Music Festival. It was my first invitation to play at this nine-year-old Festival that brings in world class musicians to live and perform in a town less than one-tenth the size of Mason! As I was living the dream life of a musician for a week, I could not help but recall our wonderful new friends and music-lovers in Mason. That week I started writing my proposal for the Mason County Chamber Music Festival.

On July 20, 2015, I attended an OPA Board meeting to present my proposal for a chamber music festival in Mason. OPA Board members listened to me politely, thanked me, and said they would let me know.

In mid-August 2015, I was on vacation in Utah when I got a call from Dennis. He told me the OPA had accepted my proposal and even had a chairperson selected for the Festival committee! Cathy Terrell volunteered to take on this rather significant position, and she soon recruited new members to be on the Festival committee.

On September 21, 2015, the Festival Committee met for the first time. A fundraising letter, a grant application to the Texas Commission for the Arts, and marketing strategies were among the topics discussed. The Committee began receiving monetary support almost immediately after the fundraising letter was mailed, and in December, the Committee applied for the grant. Several people contributed to help write the application, and Melissa Eddy edited and submitted the document to the Texas Commission for the Arts.

Music was made for the first time at the Mason County Chamber Music Festival on February 17, 2016. A Salon concert and reception at the home of Scott Zesch, featuring the Artisan Quartet, raised funds and treated the audience to great music, great food and wine, and a great sunset.

c. Bruce Williams